As writers, especially writers of fiction, we create this cloak of invisibility where we hide as we create worlds that are chaotic and wild; dangerous and deadly, or utopian and beyond the sphere of any possible existence. We dabble in a realm that mirrors reality but only truly exists in our head. Occasionally I will conceive of a project that can cause a bit of a storm in a teacup. When I write, I sometimes tiptoe right up to the extremities of what is objectionable to many, or I may explore what is delightfully playful… or safe. That is the case for many writers.
Either way, it can be a fine line. I was saddened when I read about the attack on author Salman Rushdie. It was a reminder that for some, our creative exuberance, which should not be mistaken for what we believe or practice, can be offensive. It can cause unnecessary hurt, stir up animosities, light a brush fire for which we will have neither the tools to control, nor the time to remedy.
That someone may want to hurt me because my imagination offends them, is a very unnerving thought.
Salman Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses,” was one such piece of literary satire which drew the anger of Muslims around the world. Published in 1988, the work is considered blasphemous for its content and it fueled protests in many countries. Salman Rushdie himself, had a fatwa declared against him by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, and several people related to the project were murdered. There were even bomb threats and book burnings. How much of his work was used by the political manipulators of the eighties and the nineties to foment the clash of civilizations, where Islam and the West could continue their millennia long war? I guess we would never know the answer to that. But the vicious assault on Friday 12th August against him, may have been related to this declared fatwa… a mere 32 years later. Surely a prime example of ‘Long Memory, short temper.’
It is hurtful to think that the narrative would now be spun to tarnish all the believers of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is no different to most faiths. There are hardliners who will pursue extreme ideologies to defend their belief systems. Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, the list is endless, and so is the list of martyrs willing to give up their lives for their faith. The guilt by association then falls on the majority who may hold a more moderate approach to these things.
It is a tricky proposition for creative writers. A disclaimer at the beginning of your work may not be sufficient to protect you, nor an apology. Pseudonyms are no guarantees either. That someone may want to hurt me because my imagination offends them, is a very unnerving thought.
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